Gray Fox Gets Bitten by a Rabid Bat Develops a New Strain of Rabies, Experts

Health officials declare that a new strain of rabies was discovered in a rabid fox that attacked an elderly woman in Lincoln County.

A rabid fox that attacked and bit a 78-year-old woman in Lincoln County, N.M., in April had a previously unidentified strain of rabies. The laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta executed the genetic testing of the virus which infects the central nervous system.

The woman got a series of vaccinations to prevent the virus from developing into rabies.

State officials suspect the rabid fox came in contact with an infected bat that was carrying the strain. “It has probably been out there for some time. We just haven’t looked that hard for it and by chance we found it,” said Paul Ettestad, a state public health veterinarian.

“It’s exciting. It’s related to another bat strain. It’s similar but unique, so the question is what’s the reservoir for this strain?” he expanded.

A reservoir refers to animals that transport and distribute the virus. In many cases, that can be bats, skunks or raccoons.

When animals are infected with rabies, they may appear sick, fearless, or aggressive toward humans. Animals acting this way are a threat and should be avoided, public officials advised.

Rabies evolves to fit the animals it infects. Dog rabies — the strain most specific to dogs — has not been seen anywhere in the United States since 2004.

According to the World Health Organization, rabies kills more than 50,000 people worldwide in a year.

Though rabies is fatal in humans, illness and death can be prevented by prompt treatment. If you are scratched or burned by whatever animal you suspect may have rabies either a wildlife or pet, call your physician right away.




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